Affordable rental housing scarce in U.S., study finds

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The share of renters who spend more than half their income on housing is at its highest level in half a century and it’s no longer just low-income tenants who are feeling the pain, according to a Harvard University study scheduled for release Tuesday.

About 26 percent of renters — or 10.1 million people — spent more than half their pre-tax household income on rent and utilities in 2009. That’s because incomes slipped dramatically from their peak at the start of the decade even as rents kept rising.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchPsychologyUrban/City Life and Issues* Economics, PoliticsEconomyConsumer/consumer spendingHousing/Real Estate MarketPersonal FinanceThe Credit Freeze Crisis of Fall 2008/The Recession of 2007--The U.S. Government

11 Comments
Posted April 26, 2011 at 7:29 am

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1. Dan Crawford wrote:

I think this calls for the immediate destruction of all public housing, privatizing the land, subsidizing construction companies and the elimination of all welfare assistance for housing to let the free market solve the problem.

April 26, 11:03 am | [comment link]
2. Jeremy Bonner wrote:

During the 1980s, one of the pet projects of the Thatcher government in the UK was rent-to-buy council housing.

One of the disquieting features of this commendable effort to give poorer people access to the property ladder was that local councils were prohibited (British local government not forming part of a federal system) from using funds generated from those sales to build new council houses. In other words, the ideological objective of this policy was to reduce council housing stock on a permanent basis.

For my part, I could never understand why councils could not at least be allowed to maintain current levels of council housing, ideally on a revolving policy of converting renters to owners as soon as their circumstances permitted and if they so wished.

Ownership of property is likely to promote good stewardship, but one must first have the means to be a good steward. 

Catholic and Reformed

http://catholicandreformed.blogspot.com

April 26, 12:07 pm | [comment link]
3. Fr. J. wrote:

I think the real problem here is that housing is still not selling.  So, all of those foreclosed homes sit empty while their former owners look for rental homes.  I suspect that many of those foreclosed homes will be bought by those with good credit to become rental homes eventually.  But, those investors will not purchase them until they are assured the bottom has dropped out.  But, the housing market has not hit bottom because banks want to retain as much value as possible and so hold many foreclosed properties off the market. 

So, yes, there is at present a dearth of rental properties, even as there is an excess of 20 million housing units for the American population, most built on speculation in the last boom. 

When the ice jams break, there will be an overabundance of cheap rental properties which will likely quickly deteriorate creating little Detroits wherever those excess units are found.

Happy Easter!

April 26, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
4. Teatime2 wrote:

#1—The “free market” wants to make as much money as possible. Why would you subsidize construction companies in that pursuit? Especially when they’re among the biggest offenders in hiring illegal immigrants to skimp on wages and avoid paying benefits?

Where would the lower-income elderly and disabled live? That would push those who could probably live on their own in apartments that were handicapped accessible and with a minimum of health services into nursing homes, which are horribly expensive.

Not long ago, I took in an older parishioner when I discovered that she was living in a horribly unsafe, mold-infested rental unit. It was the best she could afford in the “free market” because rents have indeed skyrocketed. At first, I helped her try to work with the landlord, which did no good, and we also contacted the city health department. The landlord found out and the day before the city inspector came to view all of the mold on the walls, the landlord painted over it.

So, I moved her into my guest room until she could find a new place and save up some money to move. I haven’t rented in many years and was really shocked by how much rent has gone up! It was looking rather bleak! She does work and she makes better than average wages for this area but it was difficult to find a decent apartment in a safe area that wouldn’t take up almost half of her net pay.

She finally found one. It is operated by a partnership that does receive government funds in owning/maintaining this complex for low- to moderate-income folks over the age of 55. I don’t know the details but it is a godsend. And I don’t know what would happen to the folks living there if it ended.

April 26, 1:45 pm | [comment link]
5. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

The government in league with the banks is keeping asset values propped up rather than allowing the market to reach its clearing price.  If real estate were allowed to find its own level, there would be more and cheaper housing.

April 26, 2:07 pm | [comment link]
6. John Wilkins wrote:

#1:  Make lots of people homeless and miserable by paying the government to break down public housing, implicitly offering a subsidy to developers.  Let large landowners build little shanties for the new serfs who can then work on the land for nothing; they can charge rent for those who need a roof over their head.  Then, end child labor laws so that they can build the housing for real cheap.  But if the landlords are Christian, perhaps they’ll let the poor eat the scraps off of their tables.

April 26, 5:30 pm | [comment link]
7. Sarah wrote:

Tee hee—I enjoy seeing the political liberals demonstrate what they believe about those who value the Constitution, individual liberty, the free market, and a limitation of the State’s size.

This is why, of course, we are appropriately polarized as we are, and elections are becoming fiercer.  Both sides rightly recognize that the other has antithetical values and foundational worldviews and either side will wrench the country in an entirely opposing and antithetical direction from the other.

Only 19 more months!

April 26, 6:45 pm | [comment link]
8. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

#6 - Have you ever been to a public housing project?  It is subsidized sociopathy, which is why municipalities ARE tearing them down.

April 26, 7:47 pm | [comment link]
9. Sarah wrote:

Anti-Gnostic, reality doesn’t matter.  It’s sincere intent that matters, whether a complete failure or not.

April 26, 8:07 pm | [comment link]
10. The Anti-Gnostic wrote:

The Good Intentions Paving Company:

“It’s the thought that counts!”

April 26, 8:17 pm | [comment link]
11. WarrenS wrote:

I love a good ad hominem argument.

April 26, 11:15 pm | [comment link]


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